BAHAMAS REEF FISH (48): SCHOOLMASTER SNAPPER
November 1st already, and the first time I am prepared to consider the possibility of the onset of Christmas, with its attendant joys yet complications… Meanwhile, I thought I might have run out of types of reef fish to feature in this series long before I got to 50. Yet here we are, two short of that target, with a species of snapper I haven’t even mentioned before. I am (frankly) a rather feeble swimmer, and do not possess a viable underwater camera. So there’s no way I could show these denizens of the not-especially-deep without heavy reliance on others, in particular the outstanding photos of diver Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba; and the memorable ones from Adam Rees of Scuba Works that include some of the more obscure species that appear in my WTF? (What’s That Fish) series.
The schoolmaster snapper (Lutjanus apodus) lives among the coral reefs and mangroves of the Caribbean and further north to the northern Bahamas and Florida. Generally they are quite small, not much more than 12- 18 inches. They tend to hang out in ‘schools’, which several sources suggest as the reason they got their common name. But schoolmasters don’t really move around in large groups, do they? It’s school pupils that do that, but ‘Pupil Snapper’ wouldn’t cut it as a fish name I guess.
10 SCHOOLMASTER SNAPPER FACTS TO PONDER
- One pair of upper teeth are so large they protrude when the fish shuts its mouth
- Their side scales are so arranged that diamond shapes are produced
- There’s plenty to learn about their fin arrangements, but not necessarily to remember
- Their jaws don’t open very wide, so their prey tends to be quite small
- Unlike fish that change sex as they grow, these ones retain their birth gender for life
- When they spawn they produce their gametes simultaneously, and swim away
- The fertilised eggs sink to the bottom, where they have to take their chances
- Though small, they are good to eat and are fished for recreation and commercially
- Regionally there are specific regulations as to catch length & limits, hook type, bait etc
- Like all snappers and many other fish species, these fish are associated with ciguatera
For those who enjoy cooking (whatever that is), you probably know exactly how you like to cook your snappers. For anyone else, here’s a site that proposes several different ways to cook them, with helpful tips. These seem to apply to all snapper species, most of which are available free in the Bahamas. http://www.allfishingbuy.com/Fish-Recipes/Snapper-Recepies.htm
My favourite schoolmaster snapper photo of those featured here
POSSIBLE MEDICAL BENEFITS FROM EATING SNAPPERS
These are alleged to include (except when fried): protection against certain types of stroke, reduction of heart arrhythmia, and defence against certain types of cancer. Don’t take my word for it, though. And definitely don’t rely on a snapper-based diet regime. I think the most that can safely be said is that eating snapper will do you no harm (except when fried) and may conceivably have a marginal benefit on health along with a balanced diet, exercise, minimal alcohol intake and all the routines that we strictly adhere to for a healthy life. In our dreams, anyway.
Credits: All great pics by Melinda Riger / GB Scuba except #6 Albert Kok; range map, Wiki. Magpie pickings.